Thirty Thousand Streets

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Mellotex / Metroplex Conspiracy

..Though I'm not sure quite what the conspiracy might actually entail.. Metroplex being a cult techno label founded by Detroit bleepmeister Juan Atkins, wheras Mellotex is a brand of printer paper widely available in the UK, combining (and here I quote from a downloadable PDF I frisked off the web) "a unique smooth crispness and opacity with excellent print performance."

The internet is of course the first port of call for my own brand of lazy e-journalism. A quick Google of of "Juan Atkins" and "paper" later, and the internet's favourite search engine coughs up an Ebay listing at number two, for an original pressing of Juan's 1985 classic 'No UFOs' under his Model 500 moniker with, notably, SOME LIGHT PAPER SCUFFING.

So maybe that's it. One of the founding fathers of the Detroit techno sound has forged an unlikely alliance with a fully integrated business paper range (produced by a paper manufacturers in Fife, no less) to provide research and development for sleeves that will prove as durable and timeless as the shimmering electro classics he intends them to house.

On the other hand it's half one in the morning, and maybe the logos just look a little similar.. a bit like that Quark/Scottish Arts Council logo fiasco a while back (Yes Scotland again).

So whatever. I'm being silly.. but they do look uncannily similar don't they? (humour me here) and In any event both techno 12s and sheets of crisp white paper are both proper nice to take a stylus to (arf arf) which is something they do have in common at least.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Weekend Parklife

On Saturday I went to view another flat. Depressingly, it was an American style block viewing which the Guardian wrote about the other week, and my Estate Agents seem to have adopted enthusiastically.

The affair took on something of a farcical air, with assorted couples trailing round and popping out of doorways to eye the flat and each other up.

It was such a beautiful day I wasn't really in the mood anyway, to be honest, and after that I wandered over to Brunswick Park where I sat on a bench and sketched. I quite like Brunswich Park. The only thing about it is it's quite small, and at least on the weekends there's always a posse of South London lads playing football, and screaming to be heard over each other's insults and the relentless shaking crash of the football hammering into the fence behind the goal. It gets a bit distracting.

That evening I went over to Ed's and sat on his roof with him and Vic chatting, before going to the Hermit's Cave where it was a sister of a friend's birthday.

Sunday was if anything, even hotter than Saturday, so I went for a wander and to take some photos with my new camera. I went and met up with Ade later, and we went and sat in Ruskin Park talking.

Dropped into the Joiners arms for a pint en route home. Sam rang to say he completed the Paris Marathon in four hours and twelve minutes, though it was eighty degrees, and by the end he resembled a giant salt-lick.

After that I went home and ate a takeaway in front of the TV. Jess was back from St Albans. She's pulled out of the of the offer she put in on a studio flat in Forest Hill, having realised it's much the same size as a rabbit hutch, only far more expensive.

After that I sat up doing a some work, then got to bed one-ish.

I'm not booked in all this week, and part of me is hoping it stays that way, I wouldn't mind a couple of days to sort other stuff out. I just got given some work, but it was a complete non-brief, where an account handler waved a A4 printout with some dimensions on under my nose and said "just do this yeah?". Scrutinising a bit I see that in fact my mission objectives need fleshing out somewhat. So, back to rambling on the internet while she bothers to find out the facts.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Last night my housemate Jess told me a story involving her mum and dad and some cockroaches. Whilst living abroad her mum owned a small travel alarm clock, whose alarm used to wake her up each morning.

One day it suddenly stopped working, so her dad opened it up to discover a large cockroach enmeshed in its workings. They surmised it must have got in whilst it was a nipper, gaining egress through a tiny hole, and survived by feeding off the grease in the clock, growing until it was too large to escape and its doom was sealed.

We've got a bit of a roach problem in our flat at the minute.. it's highly unpleasant. We're a pretty clean and tidy bunch, but our flat is full of holes and the little horrors seem to have suddenly descended on us from nowhere.

SO we've got the pest control people coming round, which should hopefully sort it out.. Otherwise it'll be another reason to get out of my large, very cheap and cheerful, yet somewhat shabby rented accomodation. I've got another viewing tomorrow anyway.

Pretty dull week really. I'm glad it's almost the weekend. Al's coming down from North London to visit, so it'll be good to see him again.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Eye love Camo

I went to the camouflage exhibition at the Imperial War Museum yesterday with Jess, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and would heartily recommend.

It's a fairly concise show, but well curated, and gives an overview on the subject from its inception in modern warfare at the beginning of the twentieth century through to to its impact on art and fashion more recently.

The early pioneers of camouflage were artists, and this is evident in the 'dazzle' system of painting warships, which can be seen on the HMS Belfast, currently parked up on the Thames. What had never really ocurred to me was that Dazzle camouflage's aim, rather than seeking to blend the ships into their surroundings (a pretty tall order when all you've got is a bucket of paint) was instead to disrupt outlines and hamper depth perception – making trajectory, distance and speed harder to gauge. This is brilliantly demonstrated in a large oil painting of some dazzle painted ships in convoy, where large zebra like areas of contrasting colour distract from their general 'shippiness', rendering them moody geometric shapes plonked on an iron grey sea. They look incongruous, more than anything.

The influence of vorticism is keenly evident in the dazzle system, and indeed one of their movement—Edward Wadsworth—actually worked for the Royal Navy as a kind of consultant on disruptive pattern. It is ftting that the Vorticists trademark splintered style came to adorn warships, given that the movement as a whole fetishized the trappings of the industrial age. As Cubism sought to reduce a variety of perspectives into a compound view, Dazzle performed a kind of optical fission, fracturing the whole into a mess of shapes that distract from a unified reading. It is remarkably effective, and looking at it I couldn't help but wonder that if Op-Art had happened thirty years earlier, whether we wouldn't be seeing dreadnoughts picked out in Bridget Riley's shimmering mirages.

Aside from the camouflage there is a lot of assorted fascinating marginalia in this exhibition, assorted trivia such as artist's and scientist's notes and sketchbooks. One artifact I found amusing was a photo of the wife of someone involved in camouflage research and development, lying on the ground naked but for some drab olive skin paint and a kind of mossy merkin. She looked almost exactly like the woman off those deodorant ads in the 90s (can't remember what the spray was).

Of course I was really there for the clothing, of which there was lots, and which encompassed the full spectrum from the purely martial through to purely fashion. Given that this thrifty, resourceful art is itself a study in affectation, posture, modes and transitions it was perhaps inevitable that it would ultimately be itself appropriated by fashion for both political and aesthetic reasons (it just occured to me that the Public Enemy t-shirt I wear as I type this has a camouflage motif worked into the background).

In some ways, Camouflage represents the apex of a very successful design credo. Like much army issue clothing, it is hard wearing and hyper-practical, but more than that, it engages in a discourse with the environment, and toys with our hardwired semiotics. It is ancient and subtle, it is devious and romantic.

Looking at the traditional designs on display, it was interesting to note how different nations had evolved similar designs in parallel, while at the same time preserving certain idiosyncracies – presumably so that the gear could simultaneously function as a uniform, and communicate allegiance.

In terms of the fashion stuff, the usual suspects were on patrol, including Stussy and Maharishi. Indeed, I think quite a lot of stuff was on loan from the latter's founder Hardy Blechman, who is credited at the end of the exhibition in an advisory capacity.

So go see it. It's a fun day out, and what's not to like about looking at lots of splotchy clothing. If you're a bit of a camo freak like myself, so much the better, and you might even learn something. For instance: did you know that people who devise and create camouflage are referred to as Camofleurs? I didn't, but all of a sudden my career path has suddenly become clear.. I mean, is that not the fucking coolest job title you've ever heard? those tedious conversations in pubs would never be the same again:

"So what do you do?"

"oh me? I'm a CAMOFLEUR. You get that? CAMOFLEUR"

I couldn't be sure, but I bet camofleurs get the girls..

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Now me and the interweb are friends electric, I almost don't know how
I survived without email, but one thing that has always wound me up
ever since I got a crappy Hotmail account back in 1999 or whenever it
was, are annoying round-robin type messages that people infect
everyone on their address list with like a giant web bound sneeze.
They say there's no cure for the common cold, and the same might be
said of this 'friendly' Spam or FRAM (I just made that up) which still rocks up in my inbox to this day, despite my having excommunicated even casual acquaintances for less.

The first, most obvious—and slightly less noxious—form this takes is:
'the funny forwarded email', which, based my personal knowledge, is a fixture of slow Friday afternoons in offices all over. This could consist of an 'amusing picture' – a jpeg of a wet cat with
the legend 'where's my coffee' for instance; or a joke, littered with
exclamation marks to remind you that this is a joke that considers itself funny.

Rest assured though, whatever form it takes it will have no style, and
practically no substance. Annoying maybe, but relatively inoffensive,
the experience is certainly no worse than being cornered and talked at
by a loud bore in a Simpsons waistcoat.

But vastly, exponentially worse than these, are those emails that find
their way to you, and actually function to perpetuate themselves – by inviting you to forward and spawn them anew.

Typically they take the form of a list or petition, which after
pleading it's case, urge you yourself to become a signatory, before
infecting your friends. There are a few main types, which I'll
briefly run through, so you can diagnose the symptoms early.

1. The Freebie

This has kind of died off somewhat recently, mostly because people are
getting hep to it, but the survivor still pings round cyberspace like a dodo in Manhattan. This basically consists of an offer, usually centred around a rich, remote, and suddenly,
unexpectedly eccentric Billionaire such as Bill Gates, or a
corporation (Microsoft will do nicely here) who are willing to give
away loads of free stuff.. if (sigh) you help them expand their
database. Here's an example:

"(insert corporation here) are looking to expand their client database, and to do this are offering free (insert expensive fetish here) to anyone will help them. Simply forward this to ten of your friends and within one month (insert corporation here) will contact you for details of how to receive your free (insert expensive fetish here)"

Some of them even have a little bit proclaiming its authenticity:

"Guys this is true i didnt believe at first but my aunt works for (insert corporation here) and she told me its true they really are doing it and I did it and now ive got (insert expensive fetish here) coming out my ass"

I've seen it with loads of things. Sony Ericcson handsets, the
aforementioned software giant, even Champagne house Pieper &
Heidseck, were, unaccountably, willing to part with crates of the good stuff, for those all important email addresses, so essential to the continued prosperity of luxury super-brands.

There are a few glaringly obvious problems with the logic behind this,
which I'm sure you could fathom out but I'll bore you with anyway.

A: I've heard of companies selling customer lists and information to each other.. and I guess this is fairly standard practice.. which implies that this information does have some kind of value. But that was surely for direct mail. What's an email worth? Not a right lot, and my spam filter seems to be pretty good at keeping out unsolicited crap (though the odd bit hawking Viagra does manage to slip beneath the radar using random bits of text spliced together into weird nonsense poems that are oddly compelling to read). No. I firmly suspect that an email address isn't worth all that much, and certainly not a top of the range mobile, which neatly segues into point..

B: Namely, of what earthly value is an customer's email address as a marketing tool if you're just going to give them what you're trying to sell them, duh..
Finally and most obviously..

C: The so called 'tracking' of these circulars, as they do the conga round cyberspace. Now I ain't exactly what you'd call a 'web guru' (I got about two centimetres into a doorstop book on HTML) and correct me if I'm wrong, but there is absolutely nothing in a bog-standard email that will allow a third party to track it, and if corporations did have the ability to stare into people's inboxes like the eye-of-Sauron (endlessly scouring the internet for the 'one client database to bind them all') I reiterate again.. why would they want to pay you (or I) for it, braniac.

What irritates me most about getting forwarded this crap of course, is that they are occassionally sent to me by acquaintances, who are, by and large, a pretty astute bunch of people. But the minute people see 'Free', baser, more covetous drives kick into motion, and they hit send anyway.

Which is sort of fair enough, as it costs you nothing to do, but on the evidence presented thus far, I think it's fair to say it never works.

2. The Happy Clapper

This is basically a hippy-dippy email that sounds like it was written by someone cross-eyed who owns whale song CD's and really likes 'crafts'. It'll probably start with something along the lines of:

"If you're feeling down at the minute, then just take a moment to remember..."

And then descends into a morass of pseudo-philosophical meta-guff. It might make some relatively valid points regarding relative prosperity etc. which could probably be paraphrased to "cheer up you miserable git" without resorting to the limp spirituality it dangles in front of you like a dreamcatcher.

And of course, when you reach the bottom, they exhort you to forward it on to your friends, to 'spread the love'.. Which is fine.. but half the time it contains some vague promise of imminent good fortune if you continue the chain. One example I saw even promising rewards on a kind of commission basis, a good luck bonus package directly liked to performance (performance being how many other saps you send this to). This of course steers the previously bucolic tone of the message into altogether darker darker waters, for having reassured you that actually, things aint all that bad, it then asks: "but do you feel lucky, punk?". Can you afford to turn down the rich rewards on offer here? Actually, yoghurt-weaver (or whoever penned this) yes I can. Now go play in the road.

3. The Charity Blackmail

Now this is probably the worst of the bunch. Wheras the 'Happy Clapper' uses superstition as the fulcrum of its call to action, the 'Charity Blackmail' tries to get under the bonnet of your concscience to engineer its proliferation. Basically this will be a circular, email, petition, whatever, that puports to be for a charitable cause. I say puports because I have a hard time believing a reputable charity would waste its time misrepresenting itself like this. Charities generally rely upon the receptivity, generosity and goodwill of would be donators, which might be compromised by doing a Sharon Osbourne and posting them these digital turds.

The premise of one I received years back was supposedly from a mother and father whose child was suffering from some terminal illness. Apparently a corporation (again, rich and eccentric) was offering to sponsor a chain email, wherein every 10 or so signatories when garner the cause a further hundred bucks or so.

There was a stock library photo of a tiny baby with, somewhat ingongruously, a blue ribbon wrapped around it—this presumably to vibrate the heartstrings—though speared on a stork's beak might have been more fitting, given the piece's morbid quality.

Apart from the fact that the whole thing seemed as hooky as Louis Vuitton gear at the Elephant and Castle Market, the fact that its opening gambit was:

"If you don't read and just delete this email then you have no heart"

Prejudiced me against it from the get-go. If I'd had a gun on me then I'd have whipped it out and blasted the screen to a smoking wreck.. instead I consigned the message to the trash then emptied that.

If you want someone to act upon a moral principle, then calling into question their moral certitude as an initial premise is, at least as far as I'm questioned, not a good way to go about it. This did not so much prick my conscience as stab it, and it in fact rather made me feel like ringing up George W and going and running over some gay baby seals in a Hummer*.

Even then I did have some vague doubt as to the authenticity of the thing, but no, two years later I saw a slightly different version of the same thing, only it had mutated slightly (or evolved, who knows). The same stock image, but a different sob story.

I generally delete anything like this on sight, but when one popped into my inbox the other I flicked through it out of curiosity. It was, allegedly and here I quote, a: "petition for drink driving" (huh?)

It consisted of a pretty awful bit of poetry that might have been written by a Vogon it was so terrifyingly bad, and set in alternating lines of lurid green and purple type to boot. It inevitably concluded with:

"If you receive this petition and do nothing but delete it, your selfishness knows no bounds."

And I wouldn't have expected anything less.

Wierdly enough though, it had an actual address on it, and looking on the internet there is actually a charity of the same name.. but at the same time, nowhere in the email is there contained any hint of what the petition was supposedly intended to achieve. Is it simply signalling moral opposition to the principle of drink driving? or some grander form of magic? perhaps if enough people sign it the concensus of mankind's collective unconscious will turn the hinges of the world and cause drink driving to simply cease to exist.

Whatever. Another hoax I suspect. But it does beg the question.. who creates these things anyway? and why exactly?

What I do find oddly creepy them is that people do actually breed them to some extent. When writing them their creator is essentially devising a formula, that when fed into the internet to flock about, will either prosper and swell, or perish alone in some binary cul-de-sac. Some will be more more successful presumably, some less so. When one of these things pops up in your inbox it is arguing for its life, and by extension pleading for the lives of its children, and children's children.. Which is why so many of them set the moral fighteners on you as an opening salvo. "Feed me" they whisper "or else".

One thing they can't do is fess up and admit to being junk, or else they are so much roadkill on the information super-highway. In "The Sirens of Mars", the prescient Phillip K Dick imagined a future earth where one of the embodiments of commericialism are mobile gnat-sized advertisements that can fly anywhere (your flat, car etc) to hide and broadcast their banal message at you like a broken record. What is hugely amusing is that everyone detests them, and takes great pleasure in swatting them down.

In much the same way, when I encounter one of these messages quivering in my gmail inbox, accusing me of selfishness in shrill hysterical tones, I take great delight in crushing them beneath my heel as a form of pest control.

What is of course slightly odd is that unlike scams (lotteries you were never aware you'd entered in Argentina, African businesses desirous of overseas bank accounts, advertising etc.) they don't seem seem to owe their existence to any immediately obvious mode of fraud (unless it be far more subtle than I can see). There doesn't seem to be any real reason for these things existence.. they just, well, are.

I wonder if there's a 'scene' which people who create these little informational anomolies associate themselves with. A hardore group of data farmers whose principal shibboleth is scripting the dna of these curious little viruses. Do they have competitions? shows? A digital Crufts where their creations are paraded around for approval? I think I would actually be quite pleased if that was the case, though sadly, I doubt it.

And who are the chefs, responsible for all these recipes of spam? I suspect it's just kids, or very, very bored, very annoying people, of whom there have been no shortage of since time immemorial. It is of course this is just a modern incarnation of the 'Chain Letter', which like most things has moved online now.

But, friends, I'm going to take a stand here, and if anyone's thinking of forwarding me any of this dreck, please be aware the Eyechild aint go no love for no junk email, and I pity the fool that runs up in my inbox, because it won't be leaving again.

*I'm JOKING (some of my best friends are seals).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lunchtime Nightmare..

I just hiked down Wardour Street onto (cough) Winnet Street, to discover that Il Panino has shut up shop. Anyone who's a regular reader of this blog might know that I rate(d) this little cafe as hands-down the best place to get a sandwich in central London, if not the solar system.

There was a note in the window from Antonio, the proprietor, apologising for any of the times they might have been in a bad mood, and a contact number should anyone want to get in touch. No clues as to why they've closed, but I bet I could hazard a few, and at least one of them will also be the title of a Pet Shop Boys song.

I wrote a few words about it back in September 2005, and since then it's remained true to form, serving excellent food that was remarkably good value. Indeed, the only reason I didn't eat there more was that one of their ciabatta specials was, sometimes, almost too much food to eat; and besides, eating elsewhere only served to drive home how exceptionally good they were. I never strayed for too long.

This is yet another nail in the coffin for London independents. For whilst there are other sandwich shops, that was the best. Do you hear me people? THE BEST SANDWICH SHOP IN SOHO HAS JUST CLOSED. GONE. LEFT THE BUILDING. God that's depressing. Soho is now officially around 5% to 7% worse between the hours of 1pm and 2pm, (though I'm not sure outside of that slot).

Still, since Pret-a-Manger is gradually tying a noose round the area there'll be no problems getting a sandwich, so long as it's one of about five and you you don't mind at least some of your money paying for Ronald McDonald's clownfood.

So what in Soho am I going to do for lunch now? The quest begins to fill the Il Panino sized hole in my lunchtimes.. and a large hole it is too. Arrivadechi Il Panino.